Sunday, July 25, 2004

HIPPOLOTOFUS CONVENTION!! Seattle, Washington—Days 174-176

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 5th Annual Hippolotofus Convention/Reunion in Seattle, Washington. I had already been back in the United States for a week prior to the conference, as I attended a good friend of mine’s wedding in Elkader, Iowa on the 17th of July. After getting upgraded to business class from Paris to Chicago (with a seven course meal and my own personal DVD player!) my luck ran out in Chicago. My flight on to Minneapolis was horribly delayed and after boarding, deplaning, flight cancellations and racing across the airport to desperately plead to get on the last Minneapolis/St. Paul flight of the day (which I was sure I was going to miss), I managed to get into the Twin Cities at midnight (4 hours delayed—but at least I got there!) and had a fabulous weekend with my friends from Macalester and catching up with things in the good old Midwest for a few days.

This leads me back to the conference. My flight left at a pretty decent time (9 am) and I was in Seattle by 11am Seattle time. I went to get my bags which seemed to multiply on their own. Being the savvy traveler that I have become, I had managed to acquire a whole extra suitcase that now contained my bridesmaid’s dress from the wedding among other things that I didn’t need on this trip but didn’t want o leave behind. Since my dad was going to be at the Conference, I figured I could send him home with an extra bag (or two).

As I was getting my bags there was a guy with a clipboard who was obviously waiting for twenty-somethings like me to meet him. He must have been with some program and was the one designated to meet everyone when they got off the plane. As soon as I got into the baggage claim I made the mistake of making eye contact with him from afar because he started waving his hands and clipboard. I literally did one of those “is he looking at me?” types of things and tried to ignore his frantic waving. So I started to move around the baggage carousel in hopes of losing him but he started coming towards me and waving even more frantically, now with a panicked sort of look on his face. I turned so that my back was towards him and when I turned back around, I think he got the picture that I wasn’t with him (I guess my hippo t-shirt wasn’t as obvious as I thought!).

That’s when Wagner came in to pick me up. We got my gazillion bags together and headed out to wait for Richard to come back around to get us. He came around and we loaded up my stuff and were on our way to the hotel.

After checking in and getting my things to my room, I said goodbye to Wagner and Richard and made arrangements to meet up at 4:15pm in the lobby to get my things together for the night’s presentation. I was really excited about the presentation, and a tad nervous that something might go awry. I called my dad who was already in Seattle for a separate conference earlier in the week and we decided to meet in the lobby.

As I waited for my dad to return to the hotel, I ran in to several people in the lobby. First Wagner, then Raul (whom I met up with in Mexico City) and several Hippolotofus members including Stewart and Shirley. It was so exciting to actually be able to meet up with the group members, all of which I had heard such great things about.

My dad showed up and we said goodbye to the group and headed out for lunch. We had lunch and then stopped by the lochs and salmon ladder on the way back to the hotel. It was really interesting to see the salmon trying to swim upstream for breeding. You think that a little fish couldn’t swim through the almost turbo jet stream pushing against them but they would! It was quite fascinating.

We made it back to the hotel and had just enough time to get my things together before I was to meet with Richard and Wagner. We met in the lobby and then headed to the conference room and met with the computer tech guy from the hotel who set up our projector for the presentation. I set up my computer and it took quite some time to load. Even my dad commented that he hadn’t seen a power point presentation over 1 GB before. J

Finally my presentation loaded and we went through several slides, testing out my dad’s cool wireless slide advancer. By the time everything was set up we had just enough time to get some coffee in the dining area across from the conference room before people started heading into the room.

I started to get nervous as hippo aficionados started heading into the conference room—all of a sudden feeling a little inadequate with my hippo knowledge. My dad and I walked in and set down our things while several people set up their hippo goods to sell and trade. We had two hours to meet and greet the hippo group, as well as trade, sell, buy and discuss all things hippopotamus. My presentation was scheduled to start at 8pm so my dad and I picked up a few cute hippo things (my dad denies being an amateur hippo collector even though he bought SEVEN hippo related things in one sitting).

Finally it was time for my presentation. I passed out a handout that I made for everyone in the group which outlined my trip on a map (although the map was a little dated) as well as every hippo that I have seen so far along with their respective zoos.

Well, what can I say. My presentation went really well! Well, at least I thought it did! I ended up talking for almost 2 hours and was thrilled with everyone’s enthusiastic questions and support for the project. My presentation was just over 200 slides in all, and several at the end I had put together little movies of several hippos which I think everyone enjoyed. My good friend Alicia (we’ve been best friends since the day I moved to Arizona when I was 8 years old) showed up just as I ended. She lives in Bellingham, Washington right now which is north of Seattle and was able to come down for the weekend, as well as to take me to the Greater Vancouver Zoological Centre this upcoming week.

After my presentation we had a hippo gift exchange which was really fun—basically it was a game where you had your name in a hat three times and when it was drawn you were able to pick a wrapped present off of a center table. Once all of the presents had been chosen and opened the REAL game began—when your name was chosen again you were able to steal or trade for someone else’s hippo. The most sought out item was a wooden carved hippo mirror which I have to say was quite impressive. I schemed my way into getting a really great Cuban cigar case converted into a purse which has a hippo print on it which I was eyeing during the entire game.

We then all called it a night and my dad, Alicia and I headed out to get something to eat before making it back to the hotel. Alicia and I finally managed to make it to sleep around, oh, 2 o’clock or something like that I was exhausted considering it was 4 a.m. Minneapolis time!

The next morning we all got up and had breakfast at the hotel before heading to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle for our special hippo tour. I was really excited to get a chance to see the group members in action with the hippos since rarely have I been with other hippo enthusiasts on my entire trip!

We met the keeper outside the zoo and after taking several group pictures we headed into the zoo right to the hippo enclosure (that’s what I like to see! Straight to the hippos!). We found a keeper inside their enclosure cleaning up and draining their pool. We watched for a while and it was great to see the hippo members so excited and eager to watch someone clean up the hippo’s enclosure. What I mean is that usually it is just me standing there watching and now there was a whole group of people who didn’t find that uninteresting. We learned a little bit about the hippos (named Water Lilly, Gertrude and Guadalupe). We were then led behind the scenes into the hippo enclosure which was really neat. While I have been in a hippo enclosure before, this was the first time that all access was given. We talked with the keeper some more before heading back out so that the hippos could be let in.

After a few minutes of waiting while water was pumped into the enclosure, Guadalupe, the youngest and newest hippo of the three hippos, came out and made a beeline for the fresh water. While several of us stood outside to get pictures of Guadalupe, we were then taken in to the inside hippo enclosure in small groups to get pictures of the other two hippos, Water Lilly and Gertrude, inside.

While such pictures wouldn’t work for the service, I eventually went into the indoor enclosure and took plenty of pictures inside of the group members with the hippos. Once everyone in the group was able to visit the hippos inside we then all headed back to the outdoor viewing area where they let Gertrude and Water Lilly out to join Guadalupe.

I snapped away as the three hippos sized each other up (apparently Water Lilly and Guadalupe are in opposition since Guadalupe was only introduced a year ago and the other two have lived together for over 20 years!). Gertrude seemed to be on the look out for Guadalupe’s well being and I was able to get some good pictures of Guadalupe in the water, and Water Lilly and Gertrude out of the water eating grass and hay that had been left out for them.

When I was finally ready to go, I looked around and realized that my dad, Alicia and I were the only ones left! The rest of the hippo group had made their way to the rest of the zoo (and most importantly the gift shop to pick up hippo goodies!). We headed back out of the zoo and stopped at the gift shop (where my Dad bought some more hippo things to add to his “collection”) and set off to kill some time in between the zoo and the Hippolotofus lunch at Sandy’s house, a hippo member by relation through her husband Glenn, who lives in Seattle.

We went to REI and my Dad and I got some really great shoes and then made our way to Sandy’s house. We didn’t get lost, but took the more “scenic” route and eventually made it to Sandy’s. The lunch was great and it was great to see Glenn’s hippo collection which was wonderfully displayed in the basement and throughout the living room. There was even a table FILLED with all of the extra or duplicate hippos that Glenn had collected up for sale. It really was quite spectacular.

After the lunch Alicia and I dropped my Dad off at the hotel before heading out to hit up a few places in Seattle, including the Gasworks Park and “U Village” by the University of Washington before making it back to the hotel. We then made ourselves look a little bit more presentable for our Space Needle dinner. We met my Dad and headed over to the Space Needle where we met with several of the group members. We were given a pager and instructed to go up to eh viewing area of the Space Needle and wait until our table was ready.

The Space Needle really is quite cool and slowly but surely all of the Hippolotofus members made their way up to the viewing area. Finally our tables were ready. We all headed up and were seated. Since there were two tables of 10 and one of three, my Dad, Alicia and I opted for the table of three so that all of the Hippolotofus members could sit together instead of some of them having to sit on their own. Dinner was really great and only did I feel a slight bit nauseas from fact that the restaurant rotated (or perhaps that was the wine?).

After dinner we said goodbye to everyone in the group. It was SUCH a wonderful weekend and I am completely looking forward to next year’s convention, where I will hopefully give “Part 2” of my presentation on the rest of the hippos that I photograph from now on. The three of us went out to get a drink but then I realized that I didn’t have my ID (and was subsequently carded—how embarrassing because I was with my DAD!) so we had to go back to the hotel. Dad decided to call it a night but first dropped me and Alicia off to meet up with Alicia’s friends from Western Washington University who live in Seattle for a night out on the town.

(c) Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.